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Cars can start wildfires, Oregon DOT warns

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Did you know your car could cause a wildfire if you’re not careful?

The Oregon Department of Transportation says more than 70% of the state’s wildfires in 2021 were caused by people. Of those, vehicles were the top source during the summer months.

Nationwide, nearly 59,000 wildfires burned more than 7.1 million acres, the National Centers for Environmental Information reports. Being aware of your vehicle’s capability to cause a wildfire can help prevent these events.

The ODOT offers these tips:

  • When pulling off the road, remain on hard surfaces. Avoid dry grass that could come into contact with your vehicle’s hot exhaust system or catalytic converter.
  • Maintain proper tire pressure. Driving on rims will create sparks.
  • Maintain your exhaust system. A faulty catalytic converter, for example, can shed extremely hot pieces of material into dry grass or brush.
  • Secure your tow chains to prevent them from dragging, which will cause sparks.
  • Remain on the road. Off-road driving is prohibited in most areas during fire season.
  • Don’t toss a lit cigarette or any burning materials from your vehicle. Warn others of careless behaviors with fireworks and other flammables.
  • Keep a cellphone, water, a shovel and a fire extinguisher (make sure you know how to use it) in your car in case a fire starts.
  • Have your vehicle serviced regularly by a trained mechanic. Flammable fluids that leak from your vehicle can cause a fire when they come in contact with heat and electrical sparks.

“We know the devastating impact that wildfires have on the roads and bridges that are critical for our communities to thrive,” Mac Lynde, administrator of the ODOT Delivery and Operations Division, said in a press release. “Please do your part to prevent wildfires.”

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